Clash of Hexennacht:Volume1 Chapter 12
Chapter 12: We Will Meet Again
What should I do?
A day had passed since he had been named Dikaio.
The dragon child opened a spell circle and used it as a door to the outside world.
He knew this place. It mostly matched the knowledge he had been given. To support a witch, he had needed to know about this kind of place just in case. It was still early morning and there was only one other individual in the room with him.
…A remarkable person.
The name “Kagami” had been inputted into his memory, but servants had a natural understanding of the relationship they had with their master. On occasion, their understanding of that relationship would fail and they would eat or kill their master, but that had apparently not happened in about a century.
The relationship he felt with her was one between a remarkable person and himself.
The remarkable person was sleeping.
She was not yet healed.
He had protected her. He had done a good job.
But the damage to her Phlogiston Heart had brought mental weariness.
That was simultaneously her strongest and weakest point.
She was a witch, yet she was not one in the strictest sense.
He was assisting her, but she could not pool her mental strength inside herself. In exchange for controlling such great amounts of ether, she had an almost nonexistent pool of internal mental strength with which to initially accelerate her power.
She was from a world where no one could use magic, but in exchange, she could create magic.
However, that meant her Phlogiston Heart could not be normalized and it was dependent on her willpower at the time.
A witch’s Phlogiston Heart was her “spirit”, but it was normally based on her pool of mental strength.
With a powerful “spirit”, not even an enemy’s attacks could damage her Phlogiston Heart. And even if it was damaged, the Heart could last as long as she had plenty of mental power pooled up.
If that pool ran out, her Heart was dependent on her “spirit”.
But based on his knowledge, not many witches’ Phlogiston Hearts would last after receiving a blast like that. And she had done so with nothing in her pool.
Just how powerful was her “spirit”?
That was why he thought of her as a “remarkable person”.
Nevertheless, that remarkable person’s Phlogiston Heart had been damaged. And she had not intentionally let it happen as she had during the battle with the Suzaku’s master. It had been a complete surprise attack.
Her Phlogiston Heart had persisted for a while after that, but it had given out as soon as she landed in the Sea of Trees.
She had spoken to him below those trees.
“Dikaio, I am going to take a quick nap. You do so as well once you are feeling up to it.”
She had quickly fallen asleep, but his first priority had been calling for help.
When he had called, the person named Koutarou had been too busy arguing with a maid who was calling him incompetent.
With that earnest thought, Dikaio had continued hitting the rescue spell’s call button until help had finally arrived.
Nothing had changed since. Rest was the best medicine for a damaged Phlogiston Heart. As her servant, he too had been damaged, but…
“That’s a dragon for you. You mostly healed yourself using the ley line in the Sea of Trees, didn’t you?”
He had only needed some simple healing. That healing had been administered by the Suzaku’s master who had helped him escape. As for where she was now…
He heard some footsteps outside the hospital room.
It was her.
Dikaio heard the Suzaku’s master walking away from the hospital room’s door.
He could tell it was her.
Not only did he recognize the footsteps, but he could sense her servant’s presence.
The Suzaku was a rare type of avian servant. It had been passed down by the Horinouchi family for generations and Dikaio had seen it when he was being healed.
To tell its master he was healed, it had started doing Hindu squats above her.
…Is that thing really a bird?
It was said a servant’s idiosyncrasies grew stronger the longer they lived, so that had to be the explanation. Maybe.
Regardless, the Suzaku’s master had just left.
He noticed something in the room that was not present in normal hospital rooms: flowers in a vase.
She had likely placed them there before he had woken.
The footsteps continued to leave.
Hunter wanted to believe it was not sleep deprivation that made the morning sun seem so bright.
She had tried to get enough sleep. When she had woken up in the partitioned seventh workshop that morning, the others had still been drinking and partying on the rooftop.
They sure are tough, she thought.
“Oh, are you going?”
“Do your best.”
“When you’re done, how about we talk about your homeland a bit?”
After they saw her off, she felt like she had become a little tougher too.
This would be an official battle. By the time she approached the pier in her uniform, the morning sun was rising.
Her servant, the Hedgehog, had already woken up and was entirely focused on grooming itself. Watching it roll around in the spell circle helped calm her, but…
…Oh, when I get back, what should I do with the food I was given?
The others were hopelessly drunk.
The snacks would be well received, but people could get a little picky when it came to meat. The special equipment students did not mind the stains from their own work, but a lot of witches saw any other stains as “impurities”. Specific types of seasonings and oils could actually be a real problem. Also, any meat cooked in American spices was poorly received. That could be hard to understand for people who were fine even with pineapple in the sauce, but that was just how it was.
Just as she thought the wind had changed, she heard footsteps.
Someone was approaching from the school building behind her.
The girl was alone.
The girl named Kagami was not with her.
Hunter had mostly expected this, but she felt some disappointment once it actually happened.
But a sudden change came over Horinouchi’s expression. She lowered the ends of her eyebrows and looked away.
“I am enough on my own. I will prove that here.”
That’s right, thought Horinouchi.
She recalled her mother and the day before.
She was alone.
She had the luxury of Koutarou and the maids assisting her, but she had also lost something.
She had no intention of letting anyone else experience that. She could proudly call that her form of justice.
And the day before, she had realized she was alone in another way.
She had been tested during Kagami and Hunter’s battle.
Hunter had commented on Horinouchi and Kagami’s relationship and on the fact that Horinouchi was not intervening in the battle.
…She said I wouldn’t summon my Frame.
After all, if Hunter had defeated Kagami, Horinouchi would have secured her spot at #4.
Horinouchi had tried to deny it.
Her Suzaku had not been in top form at the time.
And she had already accepted her drop to #5.
She had not wanted Hunter to call her a coward without knowing those things.
She had had her reasons.
But then Kagami had responded to Hunter’s comments.
“That is the reality of this world, isn’t it?”
She had been exactly right.
Did I want to say I wasn’t like that?
I’m not, but I felt there was no point in saying so.
If I said I wasn’t, then I would have had no choice but to join the battle.
But Suzaku wasn’t in top form and I had accepted my drop to #5.
So I couldn’t say I wasn’t like that.
But how did Kagami interpret that?
When she saw that I couldn’t say anything, she must have concluded those were the rules of this world. She must have concluded I would focus on my own rank and cast her aside even if something happened to her. She must have concluded I agreed with that.
And Kagami had continued to fight.
It had felt like she was telling Horinouchi not to worry about it. She had said there was nothing to worry about because those were the rules of this world.
Horinouchi had been taking advantage of her.
She had wanted to say she was not like that.
Her thoughts were running in circles now.
Was it cowardly to want to fight in top form?
She had not known what to do and had ultimately left everything to Kagami. She had known how powerful Kagami was, so she had assumed the girl would have the upper hand.
…Or am I just shoving excuses into my own memories after the fact?
As a result, Kagami’s Magino Frame had been destroyed and she was resting.
The headmaster was treating the two of them as a unit, so Horinouchi was here now.
In a way, Hunter had been exactly right.
Horinouchi and Kagami were a unit, but Horinouchi had kept her #4 spot and she was facing Hunter now.
It might have been easier had she simply helped out the day before, but…
That thought was more of her silly pride.
She did not want to be seen as cowardly. That alone she clung to with all her might.
But she had not taken action when she should have the day before.
Kagami had fortunately not been badly injured, but had given Horinouchi a certain thought.
…I need to take responsibility for the result of my silly pride.
This too was probably a part of that same silly pride.
Wouldn’t it have been better to be a coward? If she would only accept that, she could have faced this battle as herself instead of thinking about Kagami.
…But you could say I was the one that injured her.
If Kagami had won, Horinouchi was sure she would have said the victory belonged to both of them. That was just how generous a character Kagami was. So…
“I will defeat you.”
Then she would return that victory to Kagami. But only after apologizing for how she had acted the day before.
The headmaster said they were a unit, but that did not feel right to her. So to make up for her cowardice, she would accept a drop to #5.
She had thought of that the night before, but…
“Horinouchi.” The ends of Hunter’s eyebrows were lowered. “If possible, I want you to watch over those of us in the top three as we battle each other.”
She gave a smile of resignation.
“I want you two to be a barrier against everyone ranked below you.”
“Well.” Hunter continued with the morning sun shining on her from the side. “I don’t want anyone else to do what I did.”
Yes, thought Horinouchi.
Just as she had her own form of justice, so did this other girl.
Hunter had to be just as alone as she was. So…
“I cannot agree to that.”
I won’t let anyone feel the way I do. If Hunter claims to be the same, then I have to make sure this does not become a battle to see who is the most unfortunate.
After exchanging small smiles, they opened spell circles containing abbreviated programs for tactical instructions and various divine protections.
“Summon Normal Frame!”
Koutarou got to work after seeing Horinouchi off.
He was in the headmaster’s office.
He had delivered something for his master, Horinouchi.
It was not that he was not worried about that girl. In fact, he was extremely worried. Especially after what the maids had said that morning.
“If Lady Mitsuru loses, it will be your fault, head butler!”
“I will hold a grudge against you if that happens. Please make up for that grudge!”
“If Lady Mitsuru wins, make sure to thank her, head butler!”
When he had heard that, he had felt a need to ask something.
“Just for future reference, who will be responsible if she wins?”
“That will be due to her own skill.”
That answer had told him just how unfair middle management jobs could be.
…But at least they didn’t say her victory would be due to their support.
If the maids had been that rude, I would have been forced to show them my true power. Yes, I would have had to use all of my persuasive power to convince them they were wrong. I can’t exactly beat them in attack power, after all.
At any rate, he would provide absolute support to his master.
At the same time, his master disliked not doing what she was supposed to. She hated it. She loathed it. That was clear from how angry Kagami and Hunter’s exchange had made her.
She must have wanted to join that battle yesterday. Due to her excessive sense of duty. Yes. Certainly not just because she wanted to fight someone.
That was why she had a butler like him.
His duty was to act in his master’s stead.
Of the things she was supposed to do today, this was the one he could do for her.
The item he had delivered was placed on the reception table. It was held in a damp-proof and insulated hard case. The spell circle on its surface said “HSKK-Shihouin0329”.
“This is the new summer version of the flower seeds Lady Mitsuru created in the lab. The previous ones…”
“The reports are ready. Our girls worked hard on that.”
He looked down and saw a box full of handwritten papers on the table. It had not been there before, but this was a den of witches. There were many different ways for objects to suddenly appear: teleportation, concealment, cognizance alteration, ultra high-speed movement, etc.
All he needed to do was pick up the cardboard box.
When he lifted it up, he detected the scent of a summer flower from within, but…
The headmaster looked out the southern window where two low rumblings descended from the sky.
“Have they started already?” he asked.
“Shouldn’t you be out there to help?”
“They will be fighting at sea or at high altitude to prevent any damage to the surface this time. I wouldn’t be able to keep up.”
“Did you get an insurance payment for your car?”
“That was a loaner. …It was my third one, so they told me to do business with someone else next time.”
“A well-maintained vehicle really is a valuable thing.”
The headmaster smiled but then looked away from the window. Still smiling and with a distant rumbling in the background, she turned back toward Koutarou.
“Can you tell what’s happening from the sound alone?”
“Yes. Any true defender can.”
“Then,” said the headmaster as she relaxed her shoulders. “Miss Horinouchi is the rapid fire type while Miss Hunter is the one-hit win type. But since Miss Hunter’s defenses are quite good, Miss Horinouchi is going to have some trouble.”
“If possible, I wish she had a mid-range attacker with her.”
“Yes.” The headmaster smiled bitterly. “I think Mitsuyo would have suggested that to her, though.”
Just as he prepared to respond, the headmaster began to shake.
She was coughing.
In order to run over, Koutarou started putting the box back on the table, but…
The hand held out to stop him briefly grew transparent.
But had he only imagined it? She smiled with her eyebrows raised and took a breath.
“I’m fine. I’m not going to leave until I have fulfilled the promise I made.”
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